HOUSTON — Houston’s offense hasn’t exactly been running efficiently and often failed to find a rhythm in last week’s overtime loss to Dallas.
On Thursday night, the Texans look to change that when they host Indianapolis, a team coming off its best defensive outing of the season in a win over the Ravens.
Both teams enter the game at 3-2 and the winner will move into first place in the AFC South.
Perhaps most important to getting things on track offensively will be improvement by Ryan Fitzpatrick. He didn’t throw an interception in the first two games this season, but has been picked off six times in the last three games.
“A lot of it is not necessarily the physical part of it,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s the mental part of it. It’s the confidence. It’s the swagger, whatever it is. I just have to continue to, especially early in the game, play better, maybe play with more confidence.”
This week he’ll face a defense featuring the resurgent Cory Redding, a 33-year-old end who has a sack in each of the last two games.
“It’s huge, and he has found the fountain of youth,” coach Chuck Pagano said when asked what Redding’s work has meant to his defense. “He’s playing at a really high level right now ... and certainly the rest of the guys are feeding off of his energy, his play, his emotion — all those things. He’s just a phenomenal leader for us out there.”
A few things to know about this matchup between division rivals:
Though the Texans struggled to move the ball consistently against the Cowboys, they were encouraged by the play of Arian Foster. He ran for a season-high 157 yards after gaining just 6 yards on eight carries the previous week while dealing with a hamstring injury. He’s played in four games yet is third in the NFL with 404 yards rushing.
He said the Texans simply need to execute better if they want the offense to run smoothly.
“We can’t start out first-and-15 or second-and-long. You have to stay on schedule as an offense,” Foster said. “That’s part of what being a good third-down team is and part of what being a good, efficient offense is. We have to stay in manageable situations and that’s on us.”
They may have to do it without a key piece with receiver Andre Johnson missing practice Wednesday with an ankle injury and listed as questionable for Thursday night.
Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck, who grew up in Houston, is off to the best start of his career and leads the league in yards passing (1,617) and touchdown passes (14). He’s thrown for more than 300 yards in three straight games and his performance has the Colts averaging an NFL-best 321.8 yards passing a game.
This will be his third trip to Houston with the Colts, but the excitement of playing at home hasn’t worn off.
“It’s very special,” he said. “It’s good. My grandparents can’t travel as much as they used to, so it’s easy for them to see the game. A bunch of family, a bunch of friends, so it’s always special to come to Houston.”
Dre approaching 13k
Johnson is 19 yards shy of becoming the 15th player in NFL history to reach 13,000 yards receiving. He has 27 catches for 320 yards this season after finishing with 1,407 yards receiving in 2013. Johnson said he doesn’t pay much attention to marks like the one he’s nearing.
“I feel like I still have a lot of football left,” he said. “Once my career is over, I’ll look back on that and see some of the things that I’ve been able to accomplish.”
Watt an impression
When asked what he thought of J.J. Watt, Luck didn’t hesitate to rave about Houston’s defensive end.
“He’s a freak,” Luck said. “He’s big, he’s fast, he makes plays.”
Watt has 19 tackles, two sacks and has swatted down three passes this season. He also has an 80-yard interception return for a touchdown and added a second touchdown on a reception.
Indianapolis receiver Reggie Wayne is having a great season in his return from knee surgery; the 35-year-old leads the team with 384 yards receiving.
“He loves competing,” Pagano said. “That’s what drove Reggie to get back out there and obviously what’s driving him to play at the level that he’s playing at right now.”